Starling Marte sat on the ground, legs crossed, propped up against the short wall in front of the Pirates dugout. He sipped from a Gatorade cup and was in no hurry to collect his hat and glove for a potential 10th inning, confident that the umpires in the New York-based replay command center would prevent the game from reaching extras.
He was right. The review umpires overturned the call on the field that Marte was the final out at the plate, giving the Pirates a 2-1 win against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night at PNC Park on a walk-off video review.
"I knew I was safe," Marte said.
Marte came to the plate with the bases empty and two outs in the ninth facing Giants starter Tim Hudson, who was dominant. Marte hit a 1-2 fastball off the Clemente Wall in right field that ricocheted over the head of Hunter Pence.
"When I saw the ball hit the wall, I was going to try to make it to third base," Marte said.
Second baseman Ehire Adrianza relayed the ball to third, but the throw went wide of Pablo Sandoval. Third-base coach Nick Leyva, kneeling near the bag, screamed at Marte to go home.
Marte bolted for the plate. Sandoval recovered the ball and threw home to catcher Buster Posey, who applied the tag to Marte's chest. Home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled Marte out, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who said he got a thumbs-up from his staff for a challenge, asked for the review.
For 1 minute, 14 seconds, Marte, the rest of the Pirates and 18,881 fans watched the replay on PNC Park's video screen. Ike Davis, who was in the on-deck circle, repeatedly signaled safe. With each additional camera angle, players and fans alike grew more optimistic.
Eventually, the ruling: safe. A triple and a throwing error on Adrianza. Ballgame.
The Pirates' victory snapped the Giants' six-game winning streak. Tony Watson (3-0) earned the win in relief of starter Charlie Morton, who was stellar through eight innings of one-run ball.
"The sinker was better, location was better and I got righties out," Morton said. "If I can keep righties at bay, obviously the challenge has always been lefties and executing against lefties. I think I did a pretty good job of working in off the plate."
He allowed three hits, all singles, and the one run that scored on his watch was unearned. He hit two batters, walked two and threw a wild pitch, but let only one Giants runner reach second base after the second. He retired 11 batters on ground-ball outs compared to four fly-ball outs and struck out three.
Morton's ERA, which was 4.21 entering the game, dropped to 3.45.
Morton's performance had varied between strong, like his six scoreless innings in the season's opening series against the Chicago Cubs, and mediocre, as evidenced by the five runs allowed in six innings to the Milwaukee Brewers or the five walks issued against the Cincinnati Reds. Tuesday, Morton put it all together.
"It's a little bit different than it's been," Morton said of his latest start. "Sinker command hasn't been as good as I've wanted it to be."
Morton's outing was huge for a team with a bullpen taxed to the point that it will carry eight relievers for the time being. Three relievers weren't available Tuesday due to their workload over the weekend and Monday in a 13-inning game.
Hudson (4-2), who was the loser despite allowing two runs in 82/3 innings, was just as good. He entered the game having pitched at least seven innings in each of his first six starts, and his outing Tuesday made him the first Giants pitcher since Vida Blue in 1981 to pitch at least seven innings in each of his first seven starts, according to STATS LLC. Hudson had a 2.17 ERA and had walked two batters in 452/3 innings.
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez's throwing issues continued and helped the Giants score their first run. Brandon Belt singled to start the second. Belt took off for second, but Sanchez's throw sailed wide of second base and allowed Belt to reach third. Adrianza's sacrifice fly scored Belt.
The Pirates tied the score in similar small-ball fashion in the bottom half. Marte reached on an infield single and ran on the pitch to Davis. Davis' single put runners on the corners, and Marte scored on Sanchez's grounder to tie the score, 1-1.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 6, 2014 10:00 PM